On 7 October, Hamas carried out a massive assault on Israel, drawing immediate comparisons to the 1973 conflict, when the Egyptian and Syrian armies similarly breached Israeli defences. In this Q&A, Crisis Group lays out what happened and where the fighting may be headed.
09 OCTOBER 2023 //Published by The International Crisis Group
In the early hours of 7 October, Hamas launched what it called Operation al-Aqsa Deluge, a multi-pronged attack on Israel, including Israeli border towns ringing the Gaza Strip. Thousands of rockets rained down on areas in Israel in the first few hours. These gave cover to Hamas militants, who sent armed drones to hit parts of Israel’s electronic border alarm system, broke through Israeli military posts and the security fence around Gaza, or flew over the barrier in motorised hang gliders, penetrating urban areas and killing or kidnapping Israelis, many of them civilians, including children and elderly people. Some militants tried to infiltrate Israel by sea.
By mid-morning the same day, Israeli aircraft had launched strikes on suspected Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip, including several residential high-rises that were brought down. These operations continued through 8 October and into the next day. Israel also began deploying army units to the south; their first priority appeared to be to recapture the border communities under Hamas fighters’ control. This operation was reportedly nearing completion by the end of 8 October. The next phase has yet to start, but Israel appears to be preparing for a ground invasion to free Israeli hostages held by Hamas, cut the group down to size or even remove it from power. It has called up 300,000 reservists.